Despite two home runs from Caleb Bertoncini, the Madera South Stallions couldn’t keep dodging trouble in an 11-6, eight inning loss to the Bullard-Fresno Knights in Eddie Chapa Field.
Bertoncini’s second home run, a three-run shot, tied the game at six, but Bullard took advantage of two walks to score three runs in the eighth for the win Saturday after the game was moved because of Friday’s rain.
Bertoncini’s heroics came after he struggled on the mound. He got the start and lasted just two innings. He allowed four runs, two earned with three hits and four walks. Three Stallions pitchers combined for 12 walks.
“Caleb is our team leader,” head coach Bobby Waits said. “He’s our No. 1 pitcher. When you have an umpire with a strike zone so tight, he’s walking batters and it’s creating tough, high stress innings. Caleb is a four-year varsity guy and knows to have a short memory. You never know how the game goes.”
The Stallions came back from the four run deficit with two runs in the fifth and a four-run seventh to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
“That was really something as a coach, I can be proud of,” Waits said. “Now, in our future games, no matter what the deficit is, we’re capable of coming back. It’s something you want to do early in the year, especially against a good team. We’re just going to grow confident even with this kind of loss. This is a loss that I’ll still be able to sleep tonight.”
Along with Bertoncini’s big day that included four hits and five RBIs, Peyton Kragie was the only other Stallion with more than one hit.
The Knights got on the scoreboard in the first after a walk and hit batter. A single drove in the first run of the game. Bertoncini got a strikeout and a line out to end the inning.
In the second, Bullard added three runs to its lead. Bertoncini walked three batters and Bullard got three hits, including a two-run single by Nilen Peoples, who drove in five in the game, for a 4-0 lead.
Madera South put runners on in every inning against Bullard starter Jared Villalobos. With one out in the fifth, Peyton Kragie started a rally with a double to right-center.
Two pitchers later, Bertoncini launched a 1-0 pitch over the left-centerfield fence for a two-run home run to cut Bullard’s lead to 4-2.
The Knights answered with a run in the sixth on two hits and a wild pitch for a 5-2 lead. Bullard added another run in the seventh on three walks and an error to lead 6-2.
Ramon Uribe started the seventh rally with a double to deep left field. Jeremy Flores drew a full-pitch walk to chase Villalobos.
Kragie greeted Bullard reliever and eventual winning pitcher Spencer Jarocki with a single up the middle to drive in Uribe.
Bertoncini worked the count to 2-1 and hit a low fastball to deep left field. The ball sailed over the fence for a game-tying three-run home run with Flores and Kargie scoring before him.
Carlos Gonzales kept the rally going with a single up the middle. Jalen Gray sacrificed pinch-runner Jaythan Meza to second. A.J. Rocha grounded out and Meza moved to third.
Ricky Reyes hit a fly ball to the right-cetnerfield gap. Madera South nemesis Peoples tracked it down and made a game-saving diving catch to send the game into extra innings.
After a leadoff double and sacrifice bunt-turned-infield single, Gonzales walked the next two batters to force in a run.
Gonzales struck out the next two batters, but Peoples hit a two-run single and Jake Newman hit a two-run double to open the lead to five runs. Grey came in relief of Gonzales and ended the inning with a strikeout.
The Stallions worked an eight-inning rally. With one out, Uribe drew a walk and Flores was hit by a pitch. Kragie drew a walk to load the bases and chase Jarocki.
Bertoncini came to the plate with a chance to cut into the lead. He hit a screaming liner to first that was snagged for the out and Kragie was caught off of first for the game-ending double play.